pieces of the puzzle
Design Strategies, Inspiration

Design links I love: Issue 9 – Special Issue on Microlearning

Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things bought together. – Vincent Van Gogh.

Microlearning is one of the biggest trends in corporate learning these days due to its adaptability and versatility. You can find applications for microlearning in many contexts, in education, at work and also in our everyday life. Take this blog post itself, it is a curation of different micro-resources on microlearning. You can choose what resources to read depending on your interests and needs.

In our busy world, microlearning is a beautiful solution for lifelong learning. It can also help bridge the gap between formal learning and informal learning. In this special issue of Design Links I love, I will share a number of awesome links on the what, why, how and include some examples of microlearning. I will also include links that remind us that microlearning is not the solution for everything.

Microlearning is not new, but the term itself is quite recent. Microlearning came into the spotlight as mobile digital technologies have grow exponentially and the ways that people consume media and use the Internet and have changed significantly compared to 10 years ago. Microlearning caters well for a generation of learners who are used to having what they need on demand, and learning is not an exception. One may call it instant gratification and that is not necessary good in every case but getting your learning needs met instantly is wonderful, isn’t it?


Quite a few links recommended here cover all of the what, why and how on microlearning, but if you want a resource with concrete references in the literature on microlearning-related concepts, you may want to start with Microlearning: a strategy for ongoing professional development from Open Education Europa. In this, Buchem and Hamelmann discuss the design principles for microcontent and to support microlearning activities and processes.

What is microlearning?

Imagine each microlearning resource is like a piece of a puzzle and instructional designers’ job is to find out how the different puzzles fit together, and when needed create a piece of the puzzle themselves. Unlike the puzzle pieces that are quite random, each microlearning resource does have a learning purpose.

It is also important to note microlearning is not created by just simply dividing a long course/resource into multiple short courses/resources.

As cited and explained in Buchem and Hamelmann (2010), microlearning is:

“short forms of learning and consists of short, fine-grained, inter-connected and loosely-coupled learning activities with microcontent (Lindner, 2006; Schmidt, 2007)…

…Microlearning offers flexible pathways to learning, especially in context of work-based learning…

…We believe that microlearning and macrolearning both serve different needs and purposes, and thus should be viewed as complementary, and not as exclusive, forms of e-learning. “

Definition of MicroLearning : from Will Thalheimer at Will at Work Learning

What is Microlearning? : from Allen Communication Learning Services

What is Microlearning? (video):  A short microcontent piece from Grovo

Is Microlearning the Solution You Need? : from the eLearning coach

Microlearning: a strategy for ongoing professional development : This includes 10 key features that distinguishes microlearning  from more traditional elearning formats, termed “macrolearning”.

Microlearning on EduTech Wiki

Why is microlearning an effective strategy?

Why Microlearning Drives Over 20% More Information Retention than Long-Form Training

The Microlearning Trend: Accommodating Cultural and Cognitive Shifts

Numbers don’t lie: Why Bite-Sized Learning is Better for Your Learners (and You too)

The Growing Role of Microlearning : This is a fantastic reflective piece on how microlearning has come about and how eLearning has evolved overtime from very long sessions (few hours) to 20 minutes and now to a few minutes.

Google, Micro-learning & The Future of Education


There are two aspects of how: how to design the microcontent and how to design the microlearning activities.

According to Buchem and Hamelmann (2010), several pedagogical strategies can be used to support microlearning, e.g. self-directed learning, situated learning, and community based learning.

8 Tips for Creating Effective Microlearning Courses

Size Does Matter – Implementing a microlearning strategy

Microlearning: Strategy, Examples, Applications, & More

For a lot more of the How on microlearning, check out the elearningindustry articles and the Allen Interactions articles on microlearning.

Examples of microlearning

Microlearning content comes in many shapes and forms, and you can easily find them all around you: short eLearning modules, short (interactive) videos,  one-page job aids, quick How to resources, quick tips, infographics, short ILT or VLT, quick activities, blog posts,wiki pages, short podcasts, messages on social media, etc.

Here are some samples.

How to Use Microlearning-Based Training Effectively

Unconscious Bias Training Videos and scroll down Grovo website for some more microlearning video samples.

Dwecks Discovery Video : This example is also created by Grovo.

7 Awesome Microlearning Examples

Microlearning is Everywhere: 10 Examples : A variety of examples of microcontent or microlearning experiences.

Get Inspired: Five Examples of Good Microlearning Design

We Create Microlearning

Precautions on microlearning:

The Myth of “Micro-Learning” 

Microlearning: A lesson a day

Is Microlearning a Myth?

Three Tips to Avoid the “Dark Side” of Microlearning

And there are even some who think microlearning is a bad idea, which I am not of the same opinion:

Micro-learning: the next big bad idea:  The flaws in the argument are in the limited ways 1/ the author defines and 2/ makes assumption about microlearning, e.g. only courses are counted as learning why resources are not. Microlearning is not defined as a big course divided into small courses. In fact, microlearning is based on independent microcontent units, each having  a purpose. Just like not all courses are good course, not all microlearning contents are good either. And the examples that the author gives are more about examples of well designed microcontent vs. badly designed microcontent.

Your Turn

Can you think of some examples of microlearning around you?

In what situations do you think microlearning are good for?

How often do you yourself engage in microlearning activities?


Buchem, I. and Hamelmann, H. (2010) ‘Microlearning: a strategy for ongoing professional development’, elearningpapers, (21).

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